Bleary-Eyed in Saigon

February 23-25, 2016


Beautiful architecture in Shanghai Airport

Sitting in Shanghai airport about 8 pm a little dizzy after a 14 ½ hour flight from JFK. Packed on China East – pretty much a budget airline, but new 777-300 that was about as comfortable and clean as you could expect for a large sardine can. We remember sitting in the same spot during our China trip a few years ago – actually a spectacular airport and comfortable enough for our 3+ hour layover before our connecting flight to Ho Chi Minh (Saigon) to start the adventure. It’s a nice walking and shopping terminal…a good way to while away a few hours….


We met 7 people also on our tour – easy to do as we were the only Caucasians on the 400+ person airplane. It turns out that only 15 people are On the tour. A small size that makes it all that much better (potentially). Usually get 30 or 35. Our flight is leaving an hour late so we’ll be arriving in Saigon at about 2:30 am tomorrow…and I’m sure a 7:30 am wake-up call. So it begins….

We’re in bed just before 4 am…so got about three hours. After a big buffet breakfast , had a quick meeting and got on a bus for a ride out to the Cu Chi Tunnels (say Gucci with a C). They are an elaborate network of two tunnel systems, many used by the Vietcong during the Vietnam war.


Marsha exiting the tunnel, hot and dirty….

We climbed down into one of the tunnels (only Marsha, me and one other group member) and squatted and waddled the 25 yards or so of claustrophobic space. They were build intentionally small to prevent the larger American troops from entering easily.


Claustrophobic me entering a camoflaged entrance barely wide enough for me to scrape my shoulders and chest through

This was not a happy place, reminding us of the disaster that was the Vietnam war. 58,000 American soldiers and three million Vietnamese. Will we never learn.


A trap door with hidden metal “pungi” sticks made from recovered American armament



Endless types of booby trap used for self-preservation and survival

The also had a firing range where people can shoot Ak-47s and M-16s. The loud reports made the spot even more depressing and head-shakingly absurd.

Still an important experience – though relieved to move on to this beautiful spot for lunch….



With a menu to match…served family style under a beautiful, flowered pavilion 

Vietnamese food is fantastic. Then took an afternoon tour of Saigon (the center is still called Saigon while the surroundings are Ho Chi Minh). The old architecture is not as spectacular as what you find in Europe, but the French influence is very evident. Here, the City Post office….





Norte Dame, the Catholic Cathedral in the center

We ended at the huge, bustling Ben Thanh Market where you can find just about anything….




And from there back to the hotel, a delicious, light Pho dinner at a restaurant down the street (for a total of $7 with beer). To bed to make ready for the Mekong Delta tomorrow….



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4 Responses to Bleary-Eyed in Saigon

  1. Rhoda Altman says:

    OMG truly a “picture is worth a thousand words” + the benefit of your words Joel. Thank you. Traveling with you in spirit. Here’s to my intrepid traveling cousins! Love, Rhoda

  2. Sarah Milstein says:

    Great, interesting start!

  3. Vicariously traveling with you! Loving the pics and blog.

  4. Jessica says:

    Sounds incredible and eye-opening already…. More!

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